My grad tool

November 11, 2008

Each week it IT 5130 we are given different websites (tools) to look at and explore.  This week I am posting one of my own, Cover It Live.  I was exposed to this site through a staff development class in my district.  Cover it Live’s software allows people to blog with each other in real time almost like instant messaging.  If used correctly I think this has a lot of potential for the classroom.  

I would like to use this tool with my students when we have a socratic seminar.  I envision the inner circle having a discussion on a topic as any traditional socratic seminar would have, but students in the outer circle would all have laptops and would be blogging with each other about the conversation taking place or about the discussion question.  Many times students have a hard time being in the outer circle because it is either boring or they want to participate in the discussion taking place in the inner circle.  I am eager to try this tool to see if it helps remedy those problems.  

Cover It Live was tried at my school recently in on a PLC day and it did not go over very well with one of the groups. Most groups thought using this tool was a lot of fun, but in one group the teachers said they had a hard time listening to the inner circle and blogging at the same time.  As teachers we hear so much about how good our students are at multitasking while doing there homework that this should not be a problem for them…I hope!


More grad tools

October 29, 2008

This week I was exposed to a site for online brainstorming.  I wanted to write about several connections I had related to this site.

First, from a grad student perspective I have been reading and learning about the importance of brainstorming when creating presentations.  Using sticky notes was one method or suggestion given for brainstorming.  This site looked like another good way for individuals and groups to brainstorm and plan out presentations.

This site also reminded me a lot of Inspiration software.  Inspirations is used a lot in the school setting for brainstorming, making concept maps, creating graphic organizers.  I can see a lot of students using because they are so familiar with Inspiration.  Or another way to say it is the skills they learn using Inspiration are very transferable.

Grid System

October 23, 2008

For my most recent project I am using a grid system to help me design my slides in Keynote. I read about the grid system in Nancy Duarte’s book slide:ology. I really wanted to have unity throughout all of my slides since my project needed to be 30-60 slides in length. In slide:ology Duarte says, “A grid system provides as flexible way to organize your content.”  If found this to be true as I was working on my slides. It gave the the flexibility I needed while at the same time providing structure to the slides. The grid I used was a four column gird. I have posted a few pictures of the slides I created with the grid still in place. I will definitely use the grid again when I create my next project.  

Added value to a speech

October 14, 2008

One of my most recent projects was to find a speech and use words and or images to add value to that speech.  I decided on Bush’s speech to the nation after September 11th.  

I start the presentation by flashing words across the screen.  I pulled these words directly out of the speech.  I also used photos from the Department of Defense that are in the public domain.  Each photo is displayed for about 19 seconds.  I pictures to add emotion, but did not want them to take away from the speech.  Hopefully the timing of the photos accomplishes this task.


October 6, 2008

In our readings this week the concept of storyboarding was presented in Nancy Duarte’s books slide:ology and  in chapter four of Garr Reynolds’  book Presentation Zen.  Both authors emphasize how important planning is to any multimedia presentation.  They also encourage people to do their planning with paper and pencil away from the computer.

The readings this week were conformation of what I am doing in the classroom.  For each multimedia presentation that my students create in class I require that they plan their presentation on a storyboard.  I have to admit that I do not require or give as much time to this step as I probably should.  Time is a valuable and limited resource in the classroom, and it is hard to devote days to brainstorming and planning.  This is something that I want to work on and continue to emphasize in my classroom.

In Duarte’s books she recommends devoting 36-90 hours of time to developing and hour-long presentation.   As a teach, devoting this much time to a presentation would be great, but it seems unrealistic.  Most teachers have more than one presentation to give each week and often times more than one per day.  There is no way a teacher can devote this much time to each presentation or lesson.  The challenge for teachers is how can we develop high quality effective lessons in a shorter time period?  The good news is we can evaluate, reuse, and modify lessons from year to year.

Tools of the week

September 19, 2008

Each week we are given different tools to look at and explore.  Some of these websites I have heard of and use, like Skype, and other I have not.  It is amazing to think how many different tool are out on the web that I am not aware of.  Out of the tools that I have been exposed to so far, two jumped out at me because of the potential they could have in the classrooms.  

Mogulus was the first tool.  Mogulus “gives you everything you need to launch your own LIVE 24/7 television experience.”  I think there is a lot of potential here for teachers to use this with students.  I can see classes using Mogulus as a way to study current events that are happening all around the world.  The potential for real world connections and engagement of students could be very high if used correctly in a classroom.

The second tool that caught my attention was ClassSpot.  One of my dreams as a teacher is to have a laptop in my room for every student.  I would love to become a paperless classroom.  ClassSpot would be a great tool for a teacher in this situation.  According to their website:

“ClassSpot-equipped rooms enable any student to instantly share their work or digital content they find online. They can send files or websites over the network to any large display system in the classroom. Faculty or student can easily interact with the material on the display screen by simply moving their mouse on to a screen to take control.”

Allowing students to have control over the material that is presented in this format could be very powerful.  The down side to ClassSpot is that there is a cost involved to aquier this tool.  

The Cognitive Style of Power Point

September 4, 2008

I wrote this blog entry once before but accidently deleted without a backup.  I will try to capture what I said the first time in this entry. 

In his chapter “The Cognitive Style of Power Point: Pitching Out Corrupts Within” from Beautiful Evidence (September, 2003) Edward Tufte lays out an argument that Power Point (PP) is not content oriented or audience oriented (p. 158). There were many points made in this chapter by Tufte that I agree with as a teacher. 

One argument that Tufte makes is that PP “reduces the intellectual level of the content passing through the system” (p. 158). I completely agree with this statement.  Even at the middle school level I have found that when students use PP to present their learnings they don’t fully understand the information they have put on their slides. Why is this? I believe it is because students have become very good at pulling out facts from a textbook and putting then into a bullet point slide with out really thinking about those facts and the importance of the facts to their research questions.  

It is for this reason that I have banned PP from my classroom. Instead I like to give students a bucket list of software choices that they can choose from when it comes time to make a multimedia product in my classroom. This list usually includes software such as Comic Life, iWeb, GarageBand, MediaBlender, and Pages to name a few.  I think these software options allow students to create products that lead higher levels of thinking.  For example if students are making a podcast one of the requirements is that they write a script. When writing a script students have to take their research information and analyze and synthesie it in order for the script to make sense.

Power Point is a boring presentation tool.  Below I have attached two examples of poems that my students wrote using Comic Life.  I think it easy for people to see why I had the students use Comic Life and not PP to present their poems.  These poems are much more engaging and interesting to look at than a Power Point slide.


I do disagree some with Tufte when he says that “it is scandalous that there is no coherent software for serious presentations” (p. 183).  This might be true in the business world, but in the school setting I have found that there are plenty of other tools for students to use to create presentations.  Should schools be teaching PP any more? Who knows, but for me and my classes we are going to focus on different tools that promote critical thinking and engagement.